One Global Organization Working to Evolve the Human Animal Relationship

IFAW vet, Kati Loeffler, center, conducted practical training 5/15/2011 for vets and nurses who will participate in a Spay Relay event at the Jingxi Anmial Hospital.

There are around 200 sovereign states, thousands upon thousands of cultures, and more than 6.7 billion people on Earth today. Interacting with people every second of every day are countless billions of animals with which we share our planet. The relationships between humans and animals, both humane and inhumane, are the reason that organizations like the International Fund for Animal Welfare exist.

Different people and cultures view the human relationship with animals in very different ways. In the United States, it is culturally acceptable to let your 120 lb. Rhodesian Ridgeback take the best spot in bed, but entirely unacceptable to eat him for dinner.

In a number of other countries, however, dog meat is still a culturally acceptable source of protein. In India, elephants are both worshiped and kept in chains. Sensitivity to differing cultural interpretations of the “right” way to treat animals is a substantial hurdle IFAW faces in each of its campaigns.

Moral ambiguities in human relationships with animals are not new or surprising for most people, including me. Americans, for example, love their pets, eat their cows, and kill their rats by the millions without questioning the morality of their choices about which species are loved and which are condemned to die. As a result of this cognitive dissonance, international animal welfare efforts are not best served by simply attempting to export Western views of animal welfare in something like compassionate imperialism.

That is what makes IFAW so different and so effective. This organization represents the pinnacle of the international community’s moral relationship with animals.

With our global scope and expertise, IFAW has been able to make humane advancements and shift attitudes on a tremendous number of culturally sensitive issues including tiger conservation in India and China, African elephant conservation in Kenya and Malawi, and companion animal protection all over the world.

Our organization is also steadfast enough to take an uncompromising stance on more difficult animal welfare issues. We don’t believe that baby seals should be slaughtered for their fur, that whales should be harpooned for their meat, or that elephants should be killed for their ivory. The act of killing these animals is cruel and can’t effectively be made humane.

IFAW is an ideal advocate for the advancement of animal welfare in all areas of the globe, both recognizing and respecting differing cultural norms and practices.

We are able to utilize our international expertise in policy, diplomacy, emergency response and veterinary care to advance culturally sensitive animal welfare practices, but will never turn a blind eye to inherently cruel activities.

With every passing day and every successful campaign, IFAW pushes for the evolution of global animal welfare protection. And that is why I’m proud to work for this organization, with its members and for the animals we all care about.

- Nathan

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to save animals in crisis around the world, visit

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